A student from London who was jailed in the Gulf over spying claims that he always denied has revealed how he is still struggling to overcome the trauma a year on from his release.
Matthew Hedges was held in solitary confinement in the United Arab Emirates for six months awaiting trial before being jailed for life over claims that he had been spying for MI6.
He was subsequently pardoned and freed after a public campaign by his wife Daniela Tejada.
But today, as the first anniversary of his release approaches, Mr Hedges, a PhD student at Durham University who lives in south-west London, disclosed that he has since been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said he remains dependent on highly addictive anxiety medication and antidepressants he was force fed in high doses by his captors.
“I’m in a better place now. But the last few months have been really, really tough”, Mr Hedges told the Evening Standard. “After I got back, I was coping. But then there came a real slump. Quite a bad slump. The suicidal thoughts came back, I was self-harming, and that’s been tough to manage.”
Despite his troubles, Mr Hedges lectures on security one day a week at Durham University and will soon start teaching at Exeter as well — commuting to both from London. The PhD he was researching when he was arrested is also ready for submission.
“I try to just do my work, cleaning, cooking, commuting up to Durham, doing the teaching,” he said.
“I try to be as normal as that, but understanding I have still been shaped by that experience, so I have severe difficulty going to central London. I’ll have to overcome those fears, and the effects of what’s happened.
“It’s not normal to have a panic attack when you go into London so I have to accept the limitations. In some ways I’m not normal, at least for a while.”
Mr Hedges said he had struggled to have his mental health addressed via the NHS and was about to begin private treatment. His wife is campaigning for the Government to be given a legal obligation to protect its citizens abroad.
Her campaign group British Rights Abroad claims that more than 2,000 British citizens are detained overseas.
It says in 1,000 of these cases no one has been tried and argues not enough is being done to safeguard their rights.
The Foreign Office has repeatedly denied allegations that it failed to fight sufficiently in support of Mr Hedges and today reiterated that it had lobbied “incredibly hard” on his behalf.
Mr Hedges was freed after receiving a pardon but is still seeking to have his conviction overturned.